Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Another Obama green energy favorite in financial trouble

Your Cash for Their Clunkers     WSJ.com  10/18/11

Here's some investment advice: When looking for tips on green technology plays, steer clear of the stock pickers located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. They've made a habit of investing your cash in their clunkers.

Following on Solyndra's great success comes Ener1 Inc., a lithium-ion battery maker also promoted by the White House. President Obama gave the company's subsidiary, EnerDel, a shout out in August 2009, in a speech in which he announced $2.4 billion in grants "to develop the next generation of fuel-efficient cars and trucks powered by the next generation of battery technologies."

EnerDel snagged a $118 million grant, and Vice President Joe Biden toured one of its two Indianapolis-area factories as recently as January, citing it as proof that government isn't "just creating new jobs—but sparking whole new industries."

He didn't say profitable industries. Ener1 was founded in 2002, went public in 2008 and has never turned a profit. In August, it restated its earnings for fiscal 2010 at a $165 million loss—nearly $100 million more than previously reported. On September 27 it ousted its CEO, and its share price yesterday was 27 cents—a 95% decline from its 52-week high of $5.95 in January. Nasdaq is threatening to delist the stock, and Ener1 disclosed in a mid-August filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it is "in the process of determining whether the company has sufficient liquidity to fund its operations."

Ener1 attributed its financial restatement to the bankruptcy earlier this year of Norwegian electric car maker Think, in which Ener1 had invested, and with which it had signed a contract to supply batteries. Think had a long history of financial troubles and was hardly a safe investment.

Then again, Ener1 had to rely almost exclusively on Think after it lost its bid to supply batteries to Fisker Automotive, a battery-powered car maker which received a $529 million U.S. taxpayer-backed federal loan guarantee in 2010. Fisker chose to buy its batteries from a company called A123 Systems, itself the recipient of a $249 million U.S. Department of Energy grant (announced at the same time as Ener1's grant).

It's hard to sell electric car batteries when the market for electric cars is so small. Electric cars are expected to make up less than 1% of car sales by 2018, but that hasn't stopped the feds from financing a glut of battery makers. Some 48 different battery technology and electric vehicle projects received federal money as part of the Administration's August 2009 announcement, including such corporate giants as Johnson Controls and General Motors.

Current estimates are that by 2015 there will be more than double the supply of lithium-ion batteries compared to the number of electric vehicles. This government-juiced industry is headed for a shakeout, taking taxpayer dollars with it.

That may include Indiana state tax dollars. In recent years the Indiana Economic Development Corporation has offered Ener1 up to $21.1 million in performance-based tax credits and $200,000 in training grants. A spokeswoman for the state agency said Ener1 hasn't used the training money and that the tax credits were conditioned upon jobs created. She said the agency isn't at liberty to divulge Ener1's use of the tax credits. The company had promised the combination of federal and state money would allow it to create 1,700 new jobs in Indiana by 2012, and 3,000 by 2015. At last count, Ener1 employed 380 in Indiana. The company didn't return a call seeking comment.

There's no pleasure in Ener1's troubles, but there is a lesson: Better to leave commercial financing decisions to private investors and bankers who are likely to take more care with their own money. Politicians write the press releases first and worry about the taxpayer losses later.

Elevated CO2 improves plant nutrition and a boon to crop production

A paper published in the journal Plant Physiology shows that elevated levels of CO2 result in remarkable improvement of chlorophyll synthesis and nutrition for plants grown in iron-deficient soils (30% of earth's surface). The authors conclude elevated CO2 would be highly beneficial to crop production.

Photo on left is from tomato plant grown in iron-deficient soil with elevated CO2 of 800 ppm, on right grown at current levels of CO2 
Added to the NIPCC Report this week:

Reference: Jin, C.W., Du, S.T., Chen, W.W., Li, G.X., Zhang, Y.S. and Zheng, S.J. 2009. Elevated carbon dioxide improves plant iron nutrition through enhancing the iron-deficiency-induced responses under iron-limited conditions in tomato. Plant Physiology 150: 272-280.

Jin et al. (2009) grew twenty-day-old plants for an additional seven days within controlled-environment chambers maintained at atmospheric CO2 concentrations of either 350 or 800 ppm in an iron (Fe)-sufficient medium with a soluble Fe source or under Fe-limited conditions in a medium containing the sparingly soluble hydrous Fe(III)-oxide, while measuring a number of pertinent plant parameters. According to the researchers, plant growth was increased by the elevated CO2 in both the Fe-sufficient and Fe-limited media, with shoot fresh weight increasing by 22% and 44%, respectively, and root fresh weight increasing by 43% and 97%, respectively. In addition, Jin et al. report that "the elevated CO2 under Fe-limited conditions enhance[d] root growth, root hair development, proton release, root FCR [ferric chelate reductase] activity, and expressions of LeFR01 and LeIRT1 genes [which respectively encode FCR and the Fe(II) transporter in tomato], all of which enable plants to access and accumulate more Fe." And they add, as would be expected, that "the associated increase in Fe concentrations in the shoots and roots alleviated Fe-deficiency-induced chlorosis."

Jin et al. write that the bioavailability of iron to terrestrial plants "is often limited (Guerinot and Yi, 1994), particularly in calcareous soils, which represent 30% of the earth's surface (Imsande, 1998)," and they thus conclude that "Fe nutrition in plants is likely to be affected by the continued elevation of atmospheric CO2, which, in turn, will affect crop production." And as their work strongly suggests, those important effects should be highly beneficial, while even wider biospheric benefits are suggested by the work of Sasaki et al. (1998), who have demonstrated that both the ferric reductase activity and Fe uptake capacity of the marine alga Chlorococcum littorale cultured in Fe-limited media have been significantly enhanced by elevated CO2 concentrations.

Additional References:

Guerinot, M.L. and Yi, Y. 1994. Iron: nutritious, noxious, and not readily available. Plant Physiology 104: 815-820.

Imsande, J. 1998. Iron, sulfur, and chlorophyll deficiencies: a need for an integrative approach in plant physiology. Physiologia Plantarum 103: 139-144.

Sasaki, T., Kurano, N. and Miyachi, S. 1998. Induction of ferric reductase activity and of iron uptake capacity in Chlorococcum littorale cells under extremely high-CO2and iron-deficient conditions. Plant & Cell Physiology 39: 405-410.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Judge throws out rule declaring global warming a threat to polar bears

APNewsBreak: Judge blocks polar bear rule

By MATTHEW DALY - Associated Press | AP – 7 mins ago

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge has thrown out a key section of an Interior Department rule that declared global warming is threatening the survival of the polar bear.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled Monday that the Bush administration did not complete a required environmental review when it said the bear's designation as threatened in 2008 could not be used as a backdoor way to control greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.

The Obama administration agreed a year later, saying that activities outside of the bear's habitat such as emissions from a power plant could not be controlled using the Endangered Species Act. The Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group that filed a lawsuit over the 2008 rule, said the decision puts the fate of the polar bear back in the hands of the Obama administration and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

"The Obama administration has the chance to do right by the polar bear," said Kassie Siegel, an attorney for the group. "They need to decide whether the polar bear gets all the protections that other endangered species get, or whether they want to re-adopt a flawed Bush administration decision that exempts greenhouse gases" and other pollutants from the Endangered Species Act.

Sullivan's decision directs the Interior Department to respond by Nov. 17 with a timetable for when it will complete the required environmental review. Sullivan left an interim 2008 designation intact while the case continues.

Asinine climate theory of the week: Columbus caused the Little Ice Age

Depopulation of Americas may have cooled climate

By Devin Powell   Science News

MINNEAPOLIS — By sailing to the New World, Christopher Columbus and the other explorers who followed may have set off a chain of events that cooled Europe’s climate for centuries.

The European conquest of the Americas decimated the people living there, leaving large areas of cleared land untended. Trees that filled in this territory pulled billions of tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, diminishing the heat-trapping capacity of the atmosphere and cooling climate, says Richard Nevle, a geochemist at Stanford University.

“We have a massive reforestation event that’s sequestering carbon … coincident with the European arrival,” says Nevle, who described the consequences of this change October 11 at the Geological Society of America annual meeting.

Tying together many different lines of evidence, Nevle estimated how much carbon all those new trees would have consumed. He says it was enough to account for most or all of the sudden drop in atmospheric carbon dioxide recorded in Antarctic ice during the 16th and 17th centuries. This depletion of a key greenhouse gas, in turn, may have kicked off Europe’s so-called Little Ice Age, centuries of cooler temperatures that followed the Middle Ages.

By the end of the 15th century, between 40 million and 80 million people are thought to have been living in the Americas. Many of them burned trees to make room for crops, leaving behind charcoal deposits that have been found in the soils of Mexico, Nicaragua and other countries.

About 500 years ago, this charcoal accumulation plummeted as the people themselves disappeared. Smallpox, diphtheria and other diseases from Europe ultimately wiped out as much as 90 percent of the indigenous population.

Trees returned, reforesting an area at least the size of California, Nevle estimated. This new growth could have soaked up between 2 billion and 17 billion tons of carbon dioxide from the air.

Ice cores from Antarctica contain air bubbles that show a drop in carbon dioxide around this time. These bubbles suggest that levels of the greenhouse gas decreased by 6 to 10 parts per million between 1525 and the early 1600s.

“There’s nothing else happening in the rest of the world at this time, in terms of human land use, that could explain this rapid carbon uptake,” says Jed Kaplan, an earth systems scientist at the Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne in Switzerland.

Natural processes may have also played a role in cooling off Europe: a decrease in solar activity, an increase in volcanic activity or colder oceans capable of absorbing more carbon dioxide. These phenomena better explain regional climate patterns during the Little Ice Age, says Michael Mann, a climate researcher at Pennsylvania State University in State College. [Mann still refuses to admit the Little Ice Age and Medieval Warming Period were global, not local, phenomena]

But reforestation fits with another clue hidden in Antarctic ice, says Nevle. As the population declined in the Americas, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere got heavier. Increasingly, molecules of the gas tended to be made of carbon-13, a naturally occurring isotope with an extra neutron. That could be because tree leaves prefer to take in gas made of carbon-12, leaving the heavier version in the air.

Kaplan points out that there’s a lot of uncertainty in such isotope measurements, so this evidence isn’t conclusive. But he agrees that the New World pandemics were a major event that can’t be ignored — a tragedy that highlighted mankind’s ability to influence the climate long before the industrial revolution.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Republicans have their own green baggage

The GOP's Solyndra Problem    WSJ.com 10/10/11

On Friday Rick Perry delivers his first major policy address, unveiling an aggressive energy and jobs plan. It will no doubt be good. It will no doubt address serious problems. It will no doubt be ignored.

That's because, unfortunately for Mr. Perry, drilling isn't the energy topic du jour. The buzz is the bankrupt Solyndra, which is why the only energy question that came to Mr. Perry at Tuesday's New Hampshire debate was this: How, exactly, is his state's vaunted "Emerging Technology Fund"—which has dumped some 200 million taxpayer dollars into private companies—any different from Obama programs that subsidized the likes of Solyndra?

It isn't, of course, and that's a problem for Mr. Perry. The political merit of Solyndra is that it perfectly illustrates the failed Obama economic mentality—that politicians should allocate capital, that government creates industries. Nothing should be further from a free-market mentality, and Solyndra ought to be providing Republicans a potent contrast with the president. Instead, candidates like Mr. Perry and Mitt Romney are dragging green baggage.

Congressional Republicans are now investigating the solar panels out of Solyndra, and rightly so. But no one should forget it was Republicans who in 2005 created the loan program that Mr. Obama would later expropriate to funnel stimulus dollars to his green boondoggles. This was the height of the Bush-era spending craze, when the GOP had come to see green energy as a slick way to funnel yet more pork (ethanol, nuclear, wood chips) to their states. As a side benefit, it offered cover against charges that Republicans were stooges of Big Oil.

Where the handouts really got rolling was at the state level. It used to be that Republican governors competed for business by lowering taxes and regulations. Then some genius worked out that it was easier to flat-out bribe companies to relocate by offering cold, hard taxpayer cash. And with green energy all the rage, a lot of state tax dollars started flowing to Solyndra-like ventures.

Mr. Perry did all this on a grand scale, convincing his legislature to create two investment funds, one being the Emerging Technology Fund, which has acted as state venture capitalist to more than a hundred firms, including green companies. In fairness, he wasn't alone. Indiana's Mitch Daniels, Mississippi's Haley Barbour, Louisiana's Bobby Jindal—conservatives all—have happily staked their taxpayers' dollars on green bets.

But it's Mr. Perry who is running for president, and who came out of the primary gates touting his funds as a centerpiece of Texas's job-creation story. As Solyndra has escalated, the Obama political liabilities have begun to attach to the Texan. The press is churning out exposés about how many jobs the Texas grants actually produced, or how many recipients had donated to Mr. Perry. His rivals, notably Michele Bachmann, have directly called the funds Mr. Perry's "Solyndra."

Mr. Perry's response has been to say that "the federal government shouldn't be involved in that kind of investment, period," but that it is "fine for states" to pick winners and losers in the economy. All of which sounds a bit like a certain governor attempting to explain away RomneyCare.

Speaking of Mr. Romney, he's taken his own shots at Solyndra, and his 59-point economic plan warns that government "should not be in the business of steering investment toward particular politically favored approaches." The former governor seems to be hoping that the press won't notice a day in early 2003 when he used a solar company as the backdrop to announce that his state was shifting millions to a new Green Energy Fund (still in existence) that would provide venture capital and loans to renewable companies.

True, the Massachusetts fund wasn't run out of the governor's office, and the amounts were a smidgen of Mr. Obama's green stimulus. Bets are Team Obama won't make that distinction when highlighting Mr. Romney's prior support for state-sponsored venture capital for solar.

Past mistakes aside, why aren't candidates using this moment to disavow green slush? Congressional Republicans—the tea party at their backs, Solyndra in their sights—are themselves beginning to envision the upside of abandoning green pork.

Yet Mr. Perry sticks to his flawed federalism argument. And the Romney jobs plan insists "government has a role to play in innovation in the energy industry," although Romney spokesman Ryan Williams tells me his candidate is focused on "basic research through programs that ensure long-term, apolitical funding for a wide variety of early stage technologies," and that he "opposes President Obama's efforts to play venture capitalist."

The problem is that there are no apolitical subsidies. The economics of political venture capital are bad, but the politics are worse. For Republicans in particular, the green subsidy road leads only to scandals, job-number embarrassments, poor excuses, and a missed opportunity to draw distinctions with big-government liberals.

At Tuesday night's debate, Mr. Romney told Herman Cain that "simple answers are . . . often inadequate." But when it comes to green subsidies, Mr. Cain's simplicity is to die for. Government simply "should not be in the business of picking winners and losers, because most of the time they pick the losers," said Mr. Cain. Now there's a presidential energy philosophy for the ages.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Green Jobs Brown Out

How to spend $157,000 per job WSJ.com 10/11/11

The green jobs subsidy story gets more embarrassing by the day. Three years ago President Obama promised that by the end of the decade America would have five million green jobs, but so far some $90 billion in government spending has delivered very few.

A new report by the Labor Department's Office of Inspector General examined a $500 million grant under the stimulus program to the Employment and Training Administration to "train and prepare individuals for careers in 'green jobs.'" So far about $162.8 million has been spent. The program was supposed to train 125,000 workers, but only 53,000 have been "trained" so far, only 8,035 have found jobs, and only 1,033 were still in the job after six months.

Overall, "only 10% of participants entered employment." In the understatement of the year, the IG says the program failed to "assist those most impacted by the recession."

The jobs record is even more dismal when you consider that many of the jobs classified as green aren't even new jobs, much less green, according to a report from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. They include positions that have been "relabeled as green jobs by the BLS [Bureau of Labor Statistics]."

This means that bus drivers, Environmental Protection Agency regulators, university professors teaching ecology, and even the Washington lobbyists who secure energy loan guarantees count as green employees for the purposes of government counting. The Oversight Committee finds that even a charitable assessment of the Labor program puts the cost of each green job at $157,000.

The silver lining is that the IG found that as of "June 30, 2011, $327.3 million remained unexpended" from the Labor program's appropriation. The IG urges that all funds "determined not to be needed should be recouped as soon as practicable and to the extent permitted by law." That ought to be the deficit supercommittee's first $327 million in savings.

WSJ: 'A consensus of scientists is no substitute for, and often a bar to, great science'

Chemistry's Cinderella Story   WSJ.com  Review & Outlook 10/10/11

A Nobel winner who challenged dogma.

When it comes to scientific discovery, the world loves a Cinderella story: The lone genius, from Galileo to Darwin to Wegener, who bucks the received wisdom of his field and makes us see the world anew. The scientific community, however, would often prefer to keep its Cinderellas in the attic. Just ask Israel's Dan Shechtman.

Mr. Shechtman, who last week won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, is credited with the discovery in 1982 of quasicrystals, patterned but nonrepeating atomic structures that resemble the mosaics found in medieval Islamic art. For observing under an electron microscope what the scientific community held to be a physical impossibility, Mr. Shechtman was accused of "bringing disgrace" on his lab. Linus Pauling, the chemistry (and peace) Nobelist, called the discovery "nonsense" and denounced Mr. Shechtman as a "quasi-scientist." It took two years before a scientific journal would deign to publish his findings.

Today, Mr. Shechtman's observations have been fully validated and quasicrystals are beginning to have commercial applications. But his story is a reminder that a consensus of scientists is no substitute for, and often a bar to, great science. That's especially so when the consensus hardens into a dogmatic and self-satisfied enterprise.

Isn't there another field in which a similar kind of consensus has taken hold, with similarly unpleasant consequences for those who question its core assumptions? Take a guess.
Meantime, it's worth noting that, as with Cinderella, Mr. Shechtman's story has a happy ending. No doubt this will turn out to be true for others who dare to think different.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Treasury Dept warned Solyndra loan restructuring might be illegal

Energy Department Aide Pushed for Action on Solyndra   WSJ.com 10/8/11


The Treasury Department warned this year that the restructuring of a government loan to solar-panel maker Solyndra LLC might be illegal, newly released email excerpts show.

Those excerpts and other emails released Friday offer a new picture of how the Obama administration may have brushed aside warnings and, in one instance, a possible conflict of interest as officials pushed to support the solar-panel maker.

Solyndra received a $535 million Department of Energy loan guarantee in September 2009, and the loan itself came from a part of the Treasury Department. Early this year, with the company's finances growing shakier, private investors agreed to pump an additional $75 million into Solyndra. As part of that restructuring, the government agreed to take a back seat to those investors in getting repaid if Solyndra had to be liquidated. The company filed for bankruptcy last month.

Republican lawmakers have questioned the legality of the restructuring deal, and released email excerpts Friday to back their case. In an Aug. 17, 2011, email, a Treasury Department official said the department's "legal counsel believes that the statute and the DOE regulations both require that the guaranteed loan should not be subordinate to any loan or other debt obligation."

The email said Treasury believed the Department of Justice's approval should have been sought for the restructuring. It didn't say when the legal counsel warned of the possible violation.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Al Gore's inconvenient untruths of the day

Gore's rant today on his unreality blog suggests some companies are helping to 'solve the climate [hoax] crisis' by preparing for alleged cotton shortages from global warming and lack of snow for the skiing industry. The inconvenient truth is that despite Gore's manufactured "climate crisis," world cotton production and yields are at record highs and winter North American snow extent has been on a rising trend over the past 50 years:

Companies Working to Solve the Climate Crisis   By Al Gore  October 7, 2011

The Climate Reality blog points to companies that have discovered solving the climate crisis makes good business sense:

"Over the past several years, electric utilities, automobile manufacturers, investors and other businesses have started to recognize that climate change is real and that humans are contributing to it. These companies also realize that they can be part of the solution — and that it makes business sense to do so."

"To this end, a number of forward-thinking companies formed “Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy” or BICEP nearly three years ago. Members include Nike, Starbucks, Levi Strauss & Co., Timberland, Target, Best Buy and other major brands."

"These companies know that climate change threatens their supply chains, and therefore increases risk and uncertainty. For example, 95% of Levi products are made from cotton, which is sensitive to extreme heat and both too much and too little water. Aspen Skiing Co. will feel the impacts of climate change directly; a lack of snow affects the entire $66 billion-per-year industry that depends on skiers and other winter sports enthusiasts for financial survival."

Thursday, October 6, 2011

New paper finds relative sea-level rise in Greenland stabilized over past 400 years

A paper published today in Earth and Planetary Science Letters examines relative sea-level change over the past 700 years at three sites in Greenland. The paper finds relative sea-levels rose most rapidly between the 14th to 17th/18th centuries during the Little Ice Age, then slowed and were stable "during at least the latter part of the 20th century."

Relative sea-level change in Greenland during the last 700 yrs and ice sheet response to the Little Ice Age

Antony J. Longa, et al

Abstract: This paper presents new evidence regarding relative sea-level (RSL) changes and vertical land motions at three sites in Greenland since 1300 A.D., a time interval that spans the later part of the Medieval Climate Anomaly (MCA) and the Little Ice Age (LIA). We observe RSL rise at two sites in central west Greenland from c. − 0.80 ± 0.20 m at c. 1300 A.D. to c. − 0.20 m ± 0.25 m at c. 1600 A.D., after which RSL slowed and then stabilised. At a third site in south Greenland, we observe RSL rise from c. − 1.40 ± 0.20 m at c. 1400 A.D. until c. 1750 A.D., after which RSL slowed and was stable during at least the latter part of the 20th century. The c. 1600 A.D. RSL slow-down seen at the two former sites is surprising because it occurs during the LIA when one might expect the ice sheet to be gaining mass and causing RSL to rise. We interpret this RSL slowdown to indicate a period of enhanced regional mass loss from central west Greenland since c. 1600 A.D. and propose two hypotheses for this loss: first, a reduction in precipitation during cold and dry conditions and second, higher air temperatures and increased peripheral surface melt of the ice sheet from this date onwards. The latter hypothesis is compatible with a well-established temperature seesaw between western Greenland and northern Europe and, potentially, a previously identified shift from a positive to generally more negative NAO conditions around 1400 to 1600 A.D. Our study shows how RSL data from Greenland can provide constraints on the timing of ice sheet fluctuations in the last millennium and challenges the notion that during cold periods in northern Europe the ice sheet in west Greenland gained mass.

► In the late Holocene, relative sea-level rise in west Greenland slowed at 1600 A.D. ► This is during the Little Ice Age and is unexpected. ► This records mass loss either due to less precipitation or warmer air temperatures. ► We favour warmer air temperatures, as are expected under negative NAO. ► Parts of the Greenland Ice Sheet can lose mass when it is cold elsewhere.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Robert Bryce on why global warming alarmists are losing their crusade

Five Truths About Climate Change

During the decade that Al Gore dominated the environmental debate, global carbon-dioxide emissions rose by 28.5%.


Over the past two months, environmental activists have held protests at the White House and elsewhere hoping to convince the Obama administration to deny a permit for the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast. Some of those same activists have launched a series of demonstrations called "Moving Planet" to move "the planet away from fossil fuels towards a safer climate future." And next month, leaders from dozens of countries will meet at the 17th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Durban, South Africa.

But for all of the sturm und drang about climate change, what has actually happened? It's time to acknowledge five obvious truths about the climate-change issue:

1) The carbon taxers/limiters have lost. Carbon-dioxide emissions have been the environmental issue of the past decade. Over that time period, Al Gore became a world-renowned figure for his documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth," for which he won an Oscar. In 2007, he, along with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), collected a Nobel Peace Prize for "informing the world of the dangers posed by climate change." That same year, the IPCC released its fourth assessment report, which declared that "most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions." (Emphasis in original.)

Two years later, Copenhagen became the epicenter of a world-wide media frenzy as some 5,000 journalists, along with some 100 world leaders and scores of celebrities, descended on the Danish capital to witness what was billed as the best opportunity to impose a global tax or limit on carbon dioxide.

The result? Nothing, aside from promises by various countries to get serious—really serious—about carbon emissions sometime soon.

Here's a reality check: During the same decade that Mr. Gore and the IPCC dominated the environmental debate, global carbon-dioxide emissions rose by 28.5%.

Those increases reflect soaring demand for electricity, up by 36%, which in turn fostered a 47% increase in coal consumption. (Natural-gas use increased by 29% while oil use grew by 13%.) Carbon-dioxide emissions are growing because people around the world understand the essentiality of electricity to modernity. And for many countries, the cheapest way to produce electrons is by burning coal.

2) Regardless of whether it's getting hotter or colder—or both—we are going to need to produce a lot more energy in order to remain productive and comfortable.

3) The carbon-dioxide issue is not about the United States anymore. Sure, the U.S. is the world's second-largest energy consumer. But over the past decade, carbon-dioxide emissions in the U.S. fell by 1.7%. And according to the International Energy Agency, the U.S. is now cutting carbon emissions faster than Europe, even though the European Union has instituted an elaborate carbon-trading/pricing scheme. Why? The U.S. is producing vast quantities of cheap natural gas from shale, which is displacing higher-carbon coal.

Meanwhile, China's emissions jumped by 123% over the past decade and now exceed those of the U.S. by more than two billion tons per year. Africa's carbon-dioxide emissions jumped by 30%, Asia's by 44%, and the Middle East's by a whopping 57%. Put another way, over the past decade, U.S. carbon dioxide emissions—about 6.1 billion tons per year—could have gone to zero and yet global emissions still would have gone up.

4) We have to get better—and we are—at turning energy into useful power. In 1882, Thomas Edison's first central power station on Pearl Street in lower Manhattan converted less than 3% of the heat energy of the coal being burned into electricity. Today's best natural-gas-fired turbines have thermal efficiencies of 60%. Nearly all of the things we use on a daily basis—light bulbs, computers, automobiles—are vastly more efficient than they were just a few years ago. And over the coming years those devices will get even better at turning energy into useful lighting, computing and motive power.

5) The science is not settled, not by a long shot. Last month, scientists at CERN, the prestigious high-energy physics lab in Switzerland, reported that neutrinos might—repeat, might—travel faster than the speed of light. If serious scientists can question Einstein's theory of relativity, then there must be room for debate about the workings and complexities of the Earth's atmosphere.

Furthermore, even if we accept that carbon dioxide is bad, it's not clear exactly what we should do about it. In September, Tom Wigley of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder published a report that determined "switching from coal to natural gas would do little for global climate." Mr. Wigley found that the particulates put into the atmosphere by coal-fired power plants, "although detrimental to the environment, cool the planet by blocking incoming sunlight."

If Mr. Wigley's right, then using sources that emit no particulates, like nuclear and natural gas, will not make a major difference in averting near-term changes in the climate caused by carbon dioxide. But then—and here's the part that most media outlets failed to discuss when reporting on the Wigley study—widespread use of renewables such as wind and solar won't help much, either.

Will Happer, a professor of physics at Princeton and a skeptic about global climate change, recently wrote that the "contemporary 'climate crusade' has much in common with the medieval crusades." Indeed, politicians and pundits are hectored to adhere to the orthodoxy of the carbon-dioxide-is-the-only-climate-problem alarmists. And that orthodoxy prevails even though the most ardent alarmists have no credible plans to replace the hydrocarbons that now provide 87% of the world's energy.

It's time to move the debate past the dogmatic view that carbon dioxide is evil and toward a world view that accepts the need for energy that is cheap, abundant and reliable.

Mr. Bryce is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. His latest book, "Power Hungry: The Myths of 'Green' Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future" (PublicAffairs, 2010), was recently issued in paperback.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Deniers killing our grandchildren: Obama administration moves forward with Arctic oil drilling

Arctic Ocean Drilling Approved     WSJ.com   10/4/11


The Obama administration said Monday it was moving forward with oil-drilling leases off the coast of Alaska issued by the Bush administration in 2008, a victory for oil companies in the battle over Arctic Ocean drilling.

The Interior Department said it would uphold nearly 500 leases issued in the Chukchi Sea after several environmental groups challenged the sale of the leases in court.

The department's decision came in response to the lawsuit filed by environmental groups, and those groups still had the option of challenging the department's determination.

Among the companies securing leases in what is known as Lease Sale 193 was Royal Dutch Shell PLC, the energy giant already at the center of another high-profile fight to secure permits to drill in the Arctic.

Shell said it planned to begin exploring the Chukchi Sea area in 2012. Spokeswoman Kelly op de Weegh called the exploration plan "technically and scientifically sound."

Environmental groups oppose the Chukchi Sea leases, contending U.S. regulators don't know enough about the Arctic's marine life and ecosystem to allow drilling in the region. The groups, invoking last year's Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, also raise concerns about the ability of energy companies to respond to spills in the Arctic's icy waters.

The Interior Department's decision is the latest example of the Obama administration siding with energy companies against environmentalists amid a weak economy. Last month, President Barack Obama withdrew proposed ozone-emission rules that businesses said would have killed jobs.

"The Obama administration said it would make decisions in the Arctic based on sound science, but today it flunked the test," said Erik Grafe, a lawyer at Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental law firm.

White House emails warned Solyndra could go 'belly-up' by 2012 election

White House Brushed Off Solyndra Alarms WSJ.com 10/4/11

Obama Says, 'Hindsight Is Always 20-20'


Top White House officials dismissed concerns about solar-panel maker Solyndra LLC before President Barack Obama visited the company in May 2010, newly released emails show.

Mr. Obama defended the Solyndra investment in an ABC News interview on Monday, saying that "hindsight is always 20-20." The president said Solyndra "went through the regular review process and people felt like this was a good bet."

The new emails show that the debate about Mr. Obama's visit went as high as Valerie Jarrett, a confidante of the president, and Ron Klain, then chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden. In one email, Mr. Klain said that Solyndra and other clean-technology energy ventures could go "belly-up" by Election Day 2012, but that the visit "looks like it is OK."

The emails were included in a memo prepared by Democratic congressional staffers and sent to Democratic members of a panel of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

They offer the latest evidence that White House and Department of Energy officials discounted warning signs about Solyndra, which received a $535 million loan guarantee from the Energy Department in 2009 and filed for bankruptcy protection last month.

Staffers at the Office of Management and Budget sounded alarm bells after Solyndra failed to go forward with a planned initial public offering and received a warning from its auditor about its ability to continue as a "going concern," the emails show.

By late 2010, Solyndra ran into such severe cash problems that it violated terms of its loan, and the government restructured its agreement in a way that allowed private investors, who agreed to provide a $75 million loan, to be paid ahead of the U.S. if the firm was liquidated.

Just days ahead of the president's 2010 visit, an email from one OMB staffer to another indicated growing worry about the political risks. "I am increasingly worried that this visit could prove embarrassing to the Administration in the not too distant future, given 1) what we just heard today from DOE that Solyndra is delaying their IPO at least until the end of the year, and 2) what the auditors said about Solyndra making it through the year absent new financing," the email said.

Before Solyndra, Lawmakers Said Loan Program Was Slow
Another OMB staffer wrote, "Hope doesn't default before" Mr. Obama's May 26 visit.

Two days before the visit, Steve Westly, a California venture capitalist who raised funds for Mr. Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, emailed Ms. Jarrett to express concern about the visit, saying it could "haunt him in the next 18 months if Solyndra hits the wall, files for bankruptcy, etc."

Ms. Jarrett emailed Mr. Klain, the Biden aide. Mr. Klain acknowledged "some risk factors here—but that's true of any innovative company that POTUS [the president of the U.S.] would visit. It looks like it is OK to me, but if you feel otherwise, let me know."

Mr. Klain then told Ms. Jarrett: "The reality is that if POTUS visited 10 such places over the next 10 months, probably a few will be belly-up by election day 2012—but that to me is the reality of saying that we want to help promote cutting edge, new economy industries."

Democratic lawmakers said the emails showed internal debate but no improper influence on Solyndra decision-making. Republicans have alleged that politics influenced the Obama administration's decision to help the firm, and noted that a top Solyndra investor contributed to Mr. Obama's campaign. The White House denies political influence.

Democratic lawmakers said in their Solyndra memo Monday that the new emails "do not contain evidence that government decisions relating to Solyndra were influenced by considerations relating to campaign donations."

Cliff Stearns (R., Fla.), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, said the documents "raise significant concerns." He said the people closest to the president "had direct involvement in the Solyndra mess," and "the administration was fully aware of numerous red flags about Solyndra's viability, but pressed ahead anyway in an effort to secure a policy or political victory."

In the ABC interview, Mr. Obama defended the loan-guarantee program, which has come under attack from Republicans. "What we always understood was that not every single business is going to succeed in clean energy. But if we want to compete with China, which is pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into this space, if we want to compete with other countries…we've got to make sure our guys here in the United States of America at least have a shot."

Monday, October 3, 2011

Solyndra and a Billionaire's Guilt Trip

WSJ.com 10/4/11

Was this solar energy company absolution for George Kaiser's oil money?

On Wall Street this week protesters dressed as "corporate zombies" are lashing out against corporate greed. If the unfolding Solyndra scandal is any clue, however, maybe someone should ask about the high price we pay when corporate leaders indulge their feelings of guilt.

No one has spoken more frankly about guilt than billionaire George Kaiser, whose family nonprofit was Solyndra's largest stakeholder. Mr. Kaiser first went public with his guilt in a Rotary Club speech two years ago. There he explained his charitable giving this way:

"It starts with a sense of guilt we should all feel," he said. "We got to where we are by dumb luck."